U.S. dockworkers and port operators have reached a tentative deal on a new labor contract, settling a dispute that disrupted the flow of cargo through 29 West Coast U.S. ports and snarled trade with Asia.
The deal was reached late Friday and calls for restoring all port operations starting late Saturday. The two sides must still reach a final agreement.
In a joint statement, the president of the Pacific Maritime Association, James McKenna, and the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Bob McEllrath, said they are pleased to have reached a tentative deal that is good for dockworkers and the shipping industry.
U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez oversaw four days of negotiations this week between the two sides in San Francisco in the western U.S. state of California.
The White House responded to the settlement by calling it a "huge relief" for the U.S. economy, particularly the many American workers, farmers and businesses that have been affected by the dispute. A spokesperson said President Barack Obama is urging all parties, as they finalize their agreement, to clear out the congestion with ships at the West Coast ports.
The labor dispute, which began in July when a previous contract expired, tied up 29 West Coast ports for months and created a bottleneck for much of U.S. trade with Asia. Those ports handle more than a quarter of all U.S. maritime trade and more than 70 percent of the nation's imports from Asia.
Billions of dollars worth of cargo have been backed up, with large container ships remaining idle outside ports from southern California all the way north to the Canadian border.